As a result of his studies on the history of medicine in the different territories that were part of the old Crown of Aragon, particularly his native Valencia, Luis García Ballester soon realized the importance of using the vernacular language – in this case, Catalan – as an “instrument of scientific and technological communication”, as he liked to put it. It is an aspect on which he never stopped insisting in books and articles from the middle of the 1970s onwards. The publication of one of the Catalan translations of the Epistola de avibus nobilibus, a most outstanding text about falconry in Catalan that he published around that time (1975), took place in this context. This edition marks an important milestone in studies on medieval falconry in Catalonia, or – what is the same – on the spread of Galenism to animal medicine.
Even more valuable was his work encouraging other editions and studies of the scientific patrimony in the vernacular, a task not only performed with regard to Catalan, and of which we must mention some examples. First, the publication of the Catalan translation by the Majorcan surgeon Guillem Corretger, made in the early fourteenth century, of Theodoric Borgognoni’s Chirurgia. This translation, which is the oldest surviving medical text written in Catalan, was very important in the process of spreading Galenism among non-university trained doctors in the Catalan Countries. Aware of this fact, he always insisted, in his enthusiastic way, on the achievement of this goal. Other outstanding old Catalan texts, like the Catalan Tròtula by Joan de Fulgines, were also the subject of doctoral assignments and he likewise promoted the study or the publication of some significant treatises on the plague in Catalan.
They were the beginnings of the study of the process of vernacularization of science and technology in Catalan in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This was linked to growing international research into this subject, hitherto neglected by the history of science, from an interdisciplinary perspective, and which in Catalan circles had the fundamental contributions of Lluís Faraudo de Saint-Germain and a few philologists, which had been the rule everywhere. The enthusiastic support and drive of Luis García Ballester was fundamental for initiating the line of research that has now materialized at SCIÈNCIA.CAT. For him, the study of this process had necessarily to be based on the exhaustive cataloguing of the surviving materials (a task now done on the database Sciència.cat DB) and it had to generate reliable editions of the works, but also their study and that of the technical vocabulary, which he understood as being essential for overseeing the “social penetration” of science.
Although he was only able to witness the beginning of Digital Humanities, he immediately saw the great new potential it offered, and he began to use it in his research, while imagining new projects that would be possible thanks to it, such as the production of a “Corpus Medicorum Catalanorum” to classify all the old Catalan doctors and their works.